100th Interview – Narayanan Krishnan – CNN Hero of the Year 2010
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” — Chinese
This is a very special interview for Coffee With Sundar. Today, we have the 100th show.. The journey which made its humble beginnings in 2007 has continued till date.. It meandered its way along.. eventually find its purpose.. Today, Coffee With Sundar is proud to search for the next role model for India youth! On this special occasion, we have a special guest – Mr. Narayanan Krishnan.
Young Chef with a great career ahead. And he gave it all up to serve the mankind! As Coffee With Sundar searches for the role models, today we have Mr. Narayanan Krishnan – Founder of Akshya Trust and one among the CNN Top 10 Heros of the year 2010.
Narayanan Krishnan (born 1981) is an Indian chef turned social worker. He quit his career as a leading chef and began supplying meals to the homeless in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India, beginning in 2002. Krishnan founded his nonprofit Akshaya Trust in 2003, which helps to feed the homeless and mentally-disabled in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. He serves breakfast, lunch and dinner over 400 indigent and elderly people in Madurai.
Me: Sundar Rajan G S
NK: Narayan Krishnan – Founder of Akshaya Trust.
Me: Hello Mr. Krishnan. Welcome to the show on CWS. Can you please talk through the history of Akshaya Trust.. What prompted you to start.. When did you start etc..
NK: I finished my college in Madurai and I was working for a five star hotel group in Bangalore. While on a short visit to Madurai, I saw a very old man on the street who was eating his own human waste for hunger. I went to the nearby hotel and asked them what was available. They had idli, which I bought and gave to the old man. Believe me, I had never seen a person eating so fast, ever. As he ate the food, his eyes were filled with tears. Those were the tears of happiness.
I wondered what is the purpose of my life? In star hotels, I going to feed all my guests, But in my home town there are people living even without any food. I quit my job and I started feeding all these people from 2002. This is how akshya trust was born.
Me: How are the people whom you serve.. What keeps you going day after day?
NK: We feed the homeless, mentally ill destitute, and old people who are ignored by society. People are suffering without food to eat. If we dont give them food to eat, they will die out of human hunger. To serve such people keeps me going day in and day out. They should feel psychologically that they are also human beings and they deserve human care. The food gives them the physical nutrition and love & affection shows the mental nutrition. The ultimate purpose of life is to give. Start giving and you will feel the joy of giving. This keeps me going.
Me: How was the reaction from your family, relatives and friends about your decision..
NK: There were lot of objections. But I had the confidence to quit the job. I had a job from Switzerland,where I would have earnt Euros and dollars but not happiness. Today we feed 425 people and feel happy to serve them.
Me: How did you manage the funds for your initiative.. Did you have sufficient money for it all..
NK: Initially it was difficult. For several months to begin with, it was my personal saving which was used for feeding. Later a few people who saw me distributing food regularly came forward to help. The word spread from individual to individual on a personal level. For the first two years we had difficulties in meeting our expenses. Towards the end of 2004 and beginning of 2005 media coverage helped us to a great extent. Subsequently more and more support was coming. But winning this CNN award did help in creating publicity. There are lot of people who are gratefully willing to support the cause and this helps in moving the project forward.
Me: As it is often said, it is better to teach people how to fish.. than to give the fish in their hand.. What is your view on this?
NK: This is a normal line of thinking for normal people who are healthy and able. Beneficiaries for Akshaya are neither healthy nor able. When they become able they are made to stand on their own. Until such time they need to be cared for.
Me: What do you think are your top achievements.. How do you rate your achievements..
NK: In my opinion achievements and awards are relatively less important. What is important is compassion and desire to help the needy. Instead of stopping with emotion they must be transformed into action and be of practical use. I am trying to do my best. As we go along it is my desire to improve my performance.
Me: You are doing a great job on providing food for the stomach and the peace to the heart of many people in Madhurai… but that is the just tip of the ice berg.. How do you think this will reach other places across Tamil Nadu, India and rest of the world!
NK: Sure 400 odd people is only the tip of the iceberg. But it is an inspiration to so many people, not only in madhurai but across India. There a number of organizations who are willing to lend a helping hand. It requires joint effort. It is a spark to them now to start such program across the country. Infact it is an inspiration to the youth & students now. Thus I believe that the message will spread across and the mission will gain momentum. The purpose connects people across the world!
Me: Can you speak about the dream home – Akshaya Home!
NK: The Akshaya Home is one of the long-term goal that goes well beyond basic shelter. As soon as I committed myself to helping the helpless of Madurai, I thought about these efforts as a twofold. First, provide care and comfort; then provide a safety, shelter and an environment for rehabilitation when possible for those in desperate need. Safety was a very important concern, especially for the vulnerable mentally challenged women whose lives could be so susceptible. This is the dream & mission and vision of akshya trust! To build the Akshya home.
Me: Congrats for the CNN Hero award! I am sure you a hero for life. Wish you good luck in this initiative.
Readers, hope you found this chat with Mr. Narayan Krishnan inspiring. If you are interested in contributing to the cause, please find the contact details on the Akshaya website here. The previous interview with Mr. Sampath Iyengar – CEO of Bluetiger can be found here – Part 1 & Part 2.